Pumpkin Carving..

Just one more of many posts like this one all over the internet right now... it is, after all, almost Halloween! My son and I picked out this beautiful round orange pumpkin the other day at a roadside stand. There were so many to choose from!

He enjoyed rolling it around the living room and comparing it to a couple of other smaller pumpkins that we had purchased at different times this week. I showed him pictures of Jack-O-Lanterns in a few story books that we had around and we even explored pictures on Google images. Once he finally understood what we were going to do, he got very excited! The other night after dinner, we put out some newspaper and cut that pumpkin open.

He was a little hesitant to pull the top off....

And although he wasn't very keen on putting his hands inside to get the seeds out, he did end up giving it a try. I did have to pull most of them out myself though.

He helped me to decide how to draw the face by naming the parts that we needed: eyes, nose & mouth:

After we drew it, I worked on cutting the pieces out with a knife. He was very interested in the knife... why is it always the most dangerous part that the little ones are interested in? Once we got it cut out, he spend quite some time putting the pieces back in the holes like a puzzle.

Here it is all finished and lit up!

How did pumpkin carving go at your house??

Down on the Farm...

Along with the usual fall themed activities, we're also preparing for a field trip to a farm at the end of the month. My students are loving the farm activities - to be honest, what preschooler doesn't LOVE farm animals?

This year, I tried to come up with a variety of farm related books  - a few classics and a few wildcards.  I was looking for especially fun, exciting and unusual books to hold my kids' attention. Here's what we came up with:

Duck on a Bike  - This is a great funny book about a duck who rides a bike. All the other farm animals think that duck is ridiculous, but they all end up riding bikes too. What preschooler wouldn't love farm animals on bikes?

The Cow Who Clucked - This was a cute story about a cow who lost her 'moo.' She walked through the farm looking for it, asking every animal that she meets on her way - she does eventually find it. Great repetitive lines for students to help read aloud. We used animal figurines with this book as props during our readings - the kids loved helping to tell the story.

The Little Red Hen - Just a classic storybook that I remember from my childhood. The Little Red Hen is such a hard worker, but her friends are more interested in being lazy...

Old Macdonald Had a Farm - Another classic!  I have the board book version of this story. The pages are durable, pictures are simple and the cutouts between pages are fun (each page reveals more animals than the last). My toddler loves the book and so do my preschool students. We usually sing Old MacDonald while we go through the book.

I Went Walking - Super simple little book great for practicing colors and animal names. We enjoyed recreating the story in our own class book and making our own 'animal parades' during playtime.

Little Blue Truck Board Book - I got this book on sale some where a while back. My toddler loved it and I just thought that some of my 'truck obsessed' preschoolers would enjoy it too. Great combination of trucks and farm animals, every little boy's dream - right?  We used animal figurines again, a yellow dump truck and a blue truck (that I had hastily spray painted) as props during our readings. Then we took the story to the sensory bin and play it out there too.

Color Farm - Full of colorful geometric pictures of farm animals. A nice addition to our usual farm book collection...

Who Sank the Boat? - This was a cute book that I picked up at a yard sale over the summer. The kids thought it was funny to see the animals walking upright (the illustrations are very funny!) and getting into a boat. It was a great intro to a little science experiment on sinking and floating.

Silly Sally - Just a great 'silly' book with funny rhyming text. Silly Sally meets lots of farm animals and does lots of ridiculous things on her way to town. We had fun trying to act out the book. Unfortunately, no one could walk backwards, upside down.

Barnyard Banter - Bright lively illustrations with lots of farmyard noise! A fun quick read that is always a hit.

Moo on the Farm - I don't normally like sound button books, but this one is an exception. It's well made with thick board book type pages and realistic (and pretty loud) farm animal sounds. The sound quality and volume of these sorts of books usually falls short for my students who have varying degrees of hearing loss -- this book, however, was loud enough and good enough quality for every one in my class to hear and discriminate between the sounds.

The Very Busy Spider - I do love me some Eric Carle! Just an all around classic children's book with some great farm animal illustrations.

There are so many fun Farm Themed activities that my preschool students love. Most of the activities in this unit are great for listening practice and aural rehab activities since there are so many learning to listen sounds! Here are some of our activities and ideas for speech, language and listening:

Farm Puzzles: We've got a whole collection of farm puzzles available for the kids to explore. The favorites are the Melissa & Doug sound puzzle and the Melissa & Doug barn puzzle with opening doors and magnetic pieces inside. I collect a wide variety of puzzles because I have a wide span of abilities in my classroom - some puzzles have pictures on the board to match the pieces to, others don't, some have knobs or handles etc.

Puzzles lend themselves great to listening and language activities! Receptively we work on choosing animal pieces based on sound, name, description etc. and following increasingly complex directions. Expressively, students can name a piece before choosing, give directions to a peer or teacher or tell where they're placing the pieces.

Farm Lacing Beads: I inherited these farm themed lacing beads from a teacher before me. They're a nice addition a couple of times a year to the morning tray work options. The farm set is pretty small, so I added some generic people, tree and pig shaped beads too.

Sometimes we use the beads as props for when we sing Old MacDonald or another farm related song; we add the correct animal bead as we sing or take off a bead as we sing - depending on how I'm feeling that day and what skills we're working on.

We also use them for listening activities to practice following increasingly complex directions (i.e. first string the farmer, second string the pig and third string the barn OR I want the barn, farmer and horse, then the tractor and the pig).

Farm Sounds Bingo -  This is a great listening game. I think I picked it up at Walmart a while back for less than $5! Although it comes with enough game cards for each child to have one, we usually play as a group or two teams of 2. The CD has 5 different tracks of the animal noises (in different orders) with a few seconds between each animal noise; I usually pause it between sounds to let the kids have more time to find and cover the correct animal. The sound quality is good and I can turn it up as loud as I need to so that everyone can hear it well.

Sound Books - I mentioned this book above in my book section. Here's one of the ways we've used it this week. I put painter's tape over the sound buttons so that they could still be pressed, but the students couldn't see which animal they were pressing. We practiced listening to the sound and finding the animal in the book, then we'd peel back the tape to see if we were correct. Super simple, but surprisingly engaging!

Feed the Pig - This was one of our fine motor practice trays this week. I think I got the feed the pig game from Lakeshore Learning a while back. It's like a lot like this game. I added a handful of green, yellow and white pompoms of different sizes to supplement the little corn cobs that came with it. I provide both a scoop and tongs for the kids to use, since the tongs really frustrate some of the kids. The goal really is for them to work on their fine motor skills - so, for some kids that simply means picking up the pieces one at a time using a pincer grasp, for others that means using the tongs to transfer the items. The kids practically fight over this tray!

Farm Animal Figurines - Of course I switched out the zoo animals for farm animals! We've been using them for story telling activities and during playtime! When I can, I get the kids to use them for other things too -- like lining them up to make letter F for Farm!

Sensory Bin - The sensory bin for our Farm theme has consisted of a few bags of plain popcorn kernels, tiny fall leaves from the craft store, a handful of sweet gum seed pods and our farm animals, book props or kitchen pots and pans in rotation. The popcorn is a bit loud, so I can't say we accomplish all that might language work while playing, but the kids sure do have fun with it!

What are you favorite farm themed activities for you little ones?

Finally Friday!

What a week! I must say it was longer, busier and crazier than the last... how is that possible? I just hope that next week doesn't get worse!

1.  I love fall... the leaves, the weather, the golden sun, the smell.. all of it. I really just love this time of year. Here are some activities that I did with my son.

2.  Pumkins & Jack-O-Lanterns --  we made a jack-o-lantern during language group in our classroom. Here's our final carved pumpkin and here's what it looked like when we lit it up (with a battery operated flashlight) in the bathroom :)

3. FARM  -- we've been getting ready for a field trip to the farm next week... here's one of this week's lesson baskets. I've got "The Cow Who Clucked" by Denise Flemming, an animal sound book, props for my story and my interactive sticker book in the basket.

4. Professional Development. I can only hope that professional development for next year is something more meaningful and useful than what I'm required to do this year. I have to take (or retake) Human Growth and Development as per the wonderful state board of education. In an effort to keep a positive mind, here are the positives of retaking a 100 level class that I've already taken --
  1. I will be reminded of typical growth and development as I do spend MOST of my time with children who have special needs 
  2. I must complete a field placement and this will give me an opportunity to see what other teachers are doing -- right now I NEVER get to watch other teachers to see what they're doing 
  3. I might learn how to be a better college level professor or 'highjack' some good ideas for use in my own higher learning classroom!
5.  Classroom Tree -- last year I had this great tree in the corner of my classroom that stayed up all year and that changed with the theme and/or season. This year, I just haven't have the time to resurrect it... until this week... here's a picture of the tree in progress -- there's more pictures and a final picture to come!

and that's my 5 for Friday!


DIY Interactive Books...

Here's a little project that I've been working on lately: DIY interactive books out of cheap discount store sticker books. I love sticker books, but the problem with sticker books is that they can only be 'restuck' so many times with a classroom full of preschool students; they about destroyed one of these 're-usable' sticker books in one a day! They did, however, have a great time with the book before annihilating it.  I set out to solve this problem with a few cheap books in hand, some cardstock, sharp scissors and my school's industrial size laminator.

Here's a farm themed sticker book that I purchased a while ago at the dollar store:

First, I took out the sticker pages and placed the stickers on a piece of white cardstock. I left a little room around them and cut them out with a little edge beyond the stickers' edge.

Then I did a little surgery and took the book apart - this one just had a couple of staples in the middle that I needed to pull out.

With all my pieces in hand, I went to the laminator and carefully sent all the pieces through - be sure to leave enough space around them to have a bit of laminating all around so that the stickers are sealed inside.

Then I cut out all the pieces again - this was the time consuming part (cutting twice), but I do think that having each piece securely encased in laminate will pay off in the long run, as the edges shouldn't peel part easily with use.

With all my pieces and pages cut out a second time, I placed soft Velcro strips inside the book (where the stickers should have been placed) and the rough Velcro on the backs of my 'sticker' pieces.

Once all the Velcro was attached, I punched a few holes in with a paper punch in the spine and used metal rings to keep the pages together. Now I have a great little interactive book that my kids love to read!

My kids practically beg to read it and love putting the 'sticker 'pieces in the book kind of like a puzzle.

We've been practicing listening skills (receptive language) in lots of different ways --
1. Listen to the animal that I describe by name, color, size, shape and/or sound then choose correct animal. 
2. Listen to a list of 2-4 animals that I name and/or describe then choose animals in correct order.
3. Listen to clues about an animal then correctly guess which animal I'm talking about.
4. Listen to directions concerning 'where' to place the animal - practicing prepositions. 

And for expressive language:
1. Students use word, phrase or sentence to tell which animal they want to put on
2. Students give oral direction to a peer about which animal to take
3.  Students describe the animal they picked by name, sound, color, shape etc
4. Students tell where they will put their animal - practicing prepositions.

This project lends itself well to easy differentiation for student strengths and needs in the context of a single group activity - simply change your questions to meet the needs of each student during their turn. It's been a great exercise in waiting for a turn and listening to their peers. There are so many ways to use little books like these - the possibilities really are endless!

I have a few more sticker books that I'm working on converting - so stay tuned for more books like these!

Fall Leaves & Play Doh Fun...

My toddler (he's 2 1/2) and I did some fun fall activities this afternoon that I thought I'd share. First, we made some pumpkin pie/spice scented microwave play dough.

I didn't have any  cream of tartar, so we roughly followed the following recipe:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbs vinegar
1 Tbs oil
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 tsp+ pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp+ cinnamon

1. mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl

2. stir in wet ingredients (it looks pretty wet)

3. microwave in increments of 30 seconds, stirring in between heatings until doughy consistency is achieved - about 3 minutes for us. ( I didn't take a picture of this because my son was screaming that he wanted to help; I was busy convincing him that it was too hot for him to help with)

4. knead until smooth (careful it's VERY hot!)

5. then get creative! We added items from our nature walk earlier in the day - leaves, sticks and acorns. Here are our creations:

 Later in the day, we used some of our leaves from our nature walk to for a painting activity that I saw on pinterst (darn pinterest... ). 

First, I taped the leaves to some newspaper with some painters tape, then I taped the newspaper to the table. I made my little one take off his shirt because I didn't have any paint other than acrylic, so I didn't want to ruin his shirt. Then I gave him a brush and some red and yellow paint and he went to town. he Was very serious at first... then loosened up. 

After he was done painting the leaves, I took a few pieces of scrap paper from some big old books that I keep around for projects like this and laid them over top to make 'prints.'  They came out cute, but you can't really tell that they're leaves.

Have you been doing any fun fall activities? I'd loved to hear about them....